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With so much riding on tonight’s Mission Eagles vs Veterans Memorial Patriots football game, the cross-town rivalry between Mission’s two football teams has been turned up a notch or possibly two. The way the District 32-4A standings are shaping up, it’s almost certain the loser will be out of the playoff picture.
At 2-2 in district play, Coach David Gilpin’s Patriots are in a slightly better position going into tonight’s game than Coach Mario Peña’s 1-3 Eagles. However, the only way Veterans Memorial can be assured a playoff spot is to win-out its remaining three games – tonight against Mission, next week against Rio Grande City and Nov. 8 vs PSJA Southwest.
As for the Eagles, they have absolutely no wiggle room. Their current three-game losing streak has them in a do-or-die situation against the Patriots as well as against PSJA Southwest and Mercedes in Weeks 9 and 10. It’s dire situation for Mission – which Peña makes no bones about.
“Mathematically we’re not out of it, but we do have to win the last three games,” explained Peña. “I do talk to David Gilpin and we’ve basically agreed on the fact that when we meet that’s the week that the gloves come off. We’re going to go after each other.”
“I know that they’re in the same situation where in their minds they cannot afford to lose another one and I think that the fact that we’ve beaten them the last two years adds a little more to the fact that they want a little bit of redemption as well,” added Peña. “First and foremost you want to stay in the hunt for the playoffs, but there’s also the matter of bragging rights. For the fan base, it’s about the bragging rights and that in itself is going to motivate their players and our players as well.”
As for Gilpin, he sees the rivalry a bit differently. It’s his belief that it’s the Eagles that look forward to this game and get up for it more than any other game on their schedule.
“I know that Mario will have them ready to play,” said Gilpin. “It’s funny though there was a write-up in another media outlet this summer about this game being one to watch for the year but the funny part to me was that they mentioned that Mission looks at playing us as just another game while we look at this game as a chance to make a statement. The problem with that is I feel it’s the exact opposite. I feel that they circle that game and there’s no way they’re going to lose to us.”
“They have a passion to not lose to us that we’re trying to find within our kids,” added Gilpin. “And I’m talking about on an annual basis, 365 days a year they don’t want to lose to us. There’s no doubt about that. Sure, our kids want to beat Mission but it’s that passion, intensity and refusal to lose against Mission that we’re trying to instill in our kids.”
As for the Eagles being in the midst of a three-game losing streak, Gilpin knows it’s not because they haven’t been putting points on the board.
“I understand that Mission’s record is 1-3, but they scored more points against Edcouch than we did. They scored more points against Roma than we did, and they just put up 32 points against Rio Grande City,” said Gilpin. “For all the talk of a new offense and new personnel over at Mission, their offense is playing pretty well. That means that you can’t look at Mission as a team that’s not going to put up a whole lot of points.”
Rivalry and losing streak aside, Gilpin has developed an admiration for the Eagles coaching staff and the program they have built at Mission High.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mario and his staff and the job they do over there. That’s a very good coaching staff and a very good program and they’ve earned the recognition and the admiration,” said Gilpin.
Likewise, Peña had high praises to sing about Patriots quarterback Santos Villarreal and several of Gilpin’s key players.
“Without a doubt Santos is their playmaker,” said Peña. “You have to contain the kid. Last week against Roma they were down 14-20 and he fumbled a snap, picked it up and went 60 to 65 yards for a score. That’s a playmaker.”
“He does have a supporting cast of skill players around him,” added Peña. “R.J. De Leon, Alfredo Gonzalez, Bobby Tovar, John Garcia – all those kids. They’re very skilled athletes so we know what we’re going up against. As a matter of fact, I’ve felt that aside from Edcouch they were probably the next best team in the district talent-wise.”
The Patriots will be hosting the Eagles tonight at Tom Landry Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.